The first phase of the introduction of an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) that introduces biometric search capability into the Schengen Information System goes live on March 5 2018 in 10 member states.
The 10 countries are Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia.
These countries had confirmed that they would be ready to use the biometric queries from day one. It is expected that other member states will be able to use this functionality in the course of the remainder of 2018.
Further work will take place to develop the AFIS’ capabilities in phase two, which will be implemented in 2019, EU-Lisa (the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice ) said.
The Schengen Information System (SIS II) is a highly efficient large-scale information system that supports law enforcement cooperation and external border control throughout the member states of the European Union (and Schengen Associated Countries), the statement said.
The SIS II enables competent authorities, for example police officers and border guards, to enter and consult alerts on specific categories of wanted or missing persons and objects.
SIS II acts as an information sharing system between all the countries that use it and holds information in the form of “alerts”. Each Person alert can contain biographical information such as, name, date of birth, gender and nationality. In addition to this, SIS II can also store fingerprints and photographs of the person an alert is related to.
Although the legal basis of SIS II permits the storage of fingerprints, they have only been used so far to confirm the identity of a person who has been identified following a check on his/her name and/or date of birth. Though this feature has been useful, the real added value of fingerprints is to be able to identify a person from his/her fingerprints alone, the agency’s statement said.
“In order for this to occur, an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is necessary and is now ready to go live.”
The statement said that many people, sought after by the police, can be evasive about their identity and tend to use multiple aliases. Some subjects of SIS II alerts for “refusal of entry” have even sought to legally change their identity to avoid detection.
“AFIS provides the technology to identify a person on the basis of fingerprints held in SIS II.”
The SIS II central system database already contains many thousands of fingerprint records, but there was no fingerprint search capability at the central level, the statement said.
“The SIS II AFIS allows all member states to leverage on a centralized policing-oriented database. As such, it will strengthen the fight against crime within Europe,” the agency said.
(Photo: Frettie, via Wikimedia Commons)